Arron W. Saunders of Oxon Hill, who had eluded authorities since July 2002, when he was sought in the shooting of a District man over drug money and in leaving his body near the Potomac River, was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas by federal authorities, according to the Charles County Sheriff's Office.

Charles County prosecutors had indicted Saunders on a first-degree murder charge in February 2003. The indictment alleges that Saunders fatally shot Darwon A. Curtis, 21, whose naked body was found about 7:35 a.m. July 15, 2002, by a Rock Point couple walking their dog near Cobb Island in Charles.

Since the killing, Saunders, 29, had disappeared, prompting authorities to take the unusual move of unsealing indictments in February 2003 to elicit the public's help in finding him.

Still, the case grew cold. This month Charles County sheriff's authorities asked the U.S. Marshals Service for help in a nationwide manhunt, sheriff's spokeswoman Kristen Adkins said.

Saunders, an auto mechanic whom authorities expect to extradite to Charles County soon to face the murder charge, was arrested without incident by a deputy with the D.C.-based Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force of the U.S. Marshals Service and several marshals from Las Vegas, said Kevin Connolly, acting commander of the D.C. task force.

Authorities believe Saunders killed Curtis after an argument about drug money, Adkins said. She said Curtis, of Southeast Washington, probably was killed between midnight and 3 a.m. July 15, 2002, somewhere between where his body was found and Capitol Heights.

She said investigators have "compelling evidence" against Saunders, but she declined to elaborate. More information will come out when the case goes to court, Adkins said.

Last summer a law enforcement official said witnesses told police they saw Saunders and Curtis together the day Curtis disappeared.

Police also interviewed people who were reportedly with Curtis the day he was killed, and they were able to account for much of his last day alive, the official said.

After the marshals service and sheriff's detectives learned from tipsters that Saunders might be in Las Vegas, deputy marshals began surveillance of a residence of Saunders's friend before spotting Saunders, Adkins said.

Connolly declined to elaborate on how they tracked Saunders down in Las Vegas, saying that he had been there only a few months and that he was caught after "good investigative work."

"I am very proud of the detectives who committed themselves to thoroughly investigating the homicide and not resting until the suspect was identified and ultimately apprehended," Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis said in a statement.

Staff writer Michael Amon contributed to this report.